Witness: Archive 2013

Witness: Archive 2013

United Kingdom

The story of our times told by the people who were there.


Edith Piaf  

In 1963, the funeral of the legendary French singer brought Paris to a standstill. In this programme, Piaf's friends and lovers recall the career of the "Little Sparrow".

Anti-Shah Demonstrations in Iran  

Millions of people took to the streets of Iran's main cities in December 1978. They were demonstrating against the Shah and his authoritarian government. Hear from two men who took part in the protests: Sadeq Zibakalam and Abbas Milani. Photo: Demonstrators in 1978. Associated Press.

Prison Camp in WW2 Manila, Philippines  

Thousands of foreign civilians were interned in camps when Japanese troops occupied the Philippines in World War II. Many of the inmates suffered from acute malnutrition. We hear the story of one boy, Desmond Malone, who was interned at the Santo Tomas camp in Manila. Photo: American inmates of the Santo Tomas internment camp after liberation by US forces in February 1945 (AP Photo/Pool)

The Murder of Dian Fossey  

Gorilla expert Dian Fossey was murdered in her cabin at her research centre in Rwanda on 26 December 1985. Lucy Burns speaks to Kelly Stewart, who worked with Fossey and the gorillas.

Grand Theft Auto  

A new computer game - designed in Scotland - became a surprise global hit in 1997. But Grand Theft Auto also courted controversy and sparked debate over violence and drugs in video games. Listen to Brian Baglow - one of the original team behind the launch.

The MP Who Faked His Own Death  

British MP John Stonehouse faked his own death in Miami in November 1974 - and was discovered just weeks later in Australia on 24 December. Lucy Burns speaks to his barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Murder in the Amazon  

In December 1988 the Brazilian environmental campaigner, Chico Mendes, was shot dead by cattle ranchers. The 44-year-old leader of the rubber tappers union had become a powerful symbol of the struggle to save the Amazon. We hear from those closest to Mendes at the time of his death. (Photo: Chico Mendes and his family. Credit: Str/AFP/Getty Images)

Lockerbie Bombing  

On 21 December 1988 an American airliner was blown out of the sky above Scotland. A bomb had been planted in its luggage hold. All of the 259 people on board, as well as 11 people on the ground in the small town of Lockerbie, were killed. Hear from from Father Patrick Keegans who lived on the street where much of the wreckage landed. Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

The Assassination of Spain's Prime Minister  

On December 20, 1973 Luis Carrero Blanco, the Spanish PM was killed by a massive bomb which was detonated under his car in Madrid. It had been planted by the Basque separatist group ETA. He had been right-hand man to Spain's dictator Francisco Franco. Photo: Spanish police examine the aftermath of the bomb attack. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Indonesia Invades East Timor  

In December 1975, East Timor was invaded by its neighbour Indonesia, just a few days after the Timorese had declared independence from Portuguese colonial rule. Estevao Cabral was a teenager at the time, but he was caught up in the battle to defend Baucau airport against the occupying Indonesian paratroopers. He spoke to Lucy Burns about his experiences. (Photo: People wave the East Timorese flag during independence day celebrations May 19, 2002 in Dili, East Timor. Photo by Edy Purnomo/Getty Images)

The Kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr  

In December 1963 the 19-year-old son of Frank Sinatra - Frank Jr - was kidnapped for a ransom. He was released unharmed after two days. Barry Keenan, the man behind the crime, speaks to Mike Lanchin and describes the events of his doomed 'get rich quick' plot. (Photo: Frank Sinatra and son, Dec 1963. Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

International Space Station  

In December 1998, NASA astronaut Bob Cabana and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev were the first on board the International Space Station, after the first two modules - Zarya and Unity - were joined together in orbit. PHOTO: AP / NASA TV

South Africa Wins the Rugby World Cup  

In 1995, post-apartheid South Africa hosted, and won, the Rugby World Cup. It was a hugely unifying moment for the country. Hear from Francois Pienaar, captain of the victorious Springboks team about what it meant to him, and to the nation. Photo: AFP.

The Soweto Uprising  

In June 1976 South African police opened fire on schoolchildren protesting against having to learn Afrikaans at school. Hear from Bongi Mkhabela who was a schoolgirl organiser on that march - about the violence and the resistance that followed. Photo: BBC/Clarity Films/Peter Magubane

The ANC's Armed Struggle  

In 1961 the African National Congress decided to take up arms against Apartheid. The organisation's military wing was called Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation. Ronnie Kasrils was a young anti-Apartheid activist who planted one of the first bombs aimed at sabotaging the South African government's infrastructure. (Image: Ronnie Kasrils in 1961. Credit: Ronnie Kasrils)

Apartheid in the 1950s  

Following the death of Nelson Mandela we remember the system he was fighting against. Using BBC archive we present a snapshot of the attitudes and emotions on both sides of the racial divide as the South African authorites cemented the foundations of Apartheid in 1957.

The Destruction of the Mosque at Ayodhya  

In December 1993, Hindu activists demolished a Muslim holy site.

Prohibition in the USA  

On 5 December 1933 prohibition came to an end. For almost 14 years it had been illegal to sell alcohol in the USA. The law was widely flouted and organised crime had flourished under the policy. Listen to archive accounts from the time. (Photo: Men pouring alcohol down the drain circa 1920. Copyright: Hulton Archives/Getty Images)

Psychiatry and Homosexuality in the USA  

From the 1950s until the 1970s, homosexuality was classed as a mental illness in the USA. Hear from Charles Silverstein, a campaigner who persuaded the American Psychiatric Association that just because he was gay, it didn't mean he was ill.

Vietnamese Boat People  

In the late 1970s, after the end of the Vietnam War, over a million people fled the country on small overcrowded boats. Hear the story of just one Vietnamese boat person: Nguyen Ngoc Ngan. Photo: Cor/AFP/Getty Images.

Video player is in betaClose